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(Macro International 1993), compared to 90 for all other “low human development” countries, as defined by the 1998 United Nations Human Development Report.  The percentage of the Kenyan population with access to safe water has also increased from 17 percent in 1975-80 to 53 percent in 1990-96.  These are very positive trends; nevertheless 53 percent with access to safe water is still quite low compared to many other countries in the same range of economic growth and development (see Table 5.).

Whereas the under-five mortality rate for children in Kenya was in a steady decline for the last 50 years, it has recently risen again to 112 per 1,000 live births – an increase of 24 percent from the last decade – according to the 1998 Demographic Health Survey for Kenya (Macro International 1998).  This is probably related to a number of factors, and again it is not clear what links there are to environmental degradation. Macro International, however, is conducting an analysis of the data that may soon illuminate that kind of linkage (Strong 2000).  

Table 5.  Access to safe water:  comparison of countries

Country

Population with access to safe water (1990-96)

Real GDP per capita, 1995 (purchasing power parity)

Kenya

53%

$1438

Togo

55%

$1167

Lesotho

62%

$1290

Burundi

52%

$637

(Source:  UNDP 1998, p. 149.)

There has been an increase in malaria in highland areas after heavy rains, where it essentially was never seen before.  Malaria there is particularly virulent because there is no immune system resistance in that area.  The increase is partly due to an increase in highlands cultivation, where a trend of agricultural conversion from woodland and forest has been noted in recent years.   This increase in malarial infection is likely to be related to these environmental trends because mosquito larvae can only survive where pools of standing water exist and are warm enough (i.e., probably not shaded as in the past) to allow them to breed (Masbayi 2000).

Nutrient pollution is a primary factor in the eutrophication of Lake Victoria, a critical source of water for drinking, domestic use and small-scale irrigation, for inhabitants living near the lake.  Pollutants derive from agricultural runoff, untreated sewage, and deforested areas surrounding the water (ICRAF/Future Harvest 1999).

5.2.5. Other threats to freshwater in Kenya.

Global climate change.  The rise in global sea levels expected to result from global warming will negatively affect the topography of Kenya’s coastline and therefore also its marine wetlands (Nyamweru 1991, p. 7).  Rift Valley lakes – already subject to wide variations in volume and depth levels – are likely to see ever greater changes as global warming and agricultural encroachment increase, and will therefore provide less hospitable habitat for wildlife.  Plateau wetlands, such as Lake Amboseli, which are totally dry for long periods, are yet more vulnerable to climate change and land use impacts (Nyamweru 1991, p. 11).  Montane bamboo and other high altitude grass will be invaded by lower altitude woody vegetation as a result of global warming, the extent of colonization depending on rate of temperature change and soil depth in those high altitude areas (Kamweti 2000).

Invasive/introduced species.  Salvinia, water hyacinth, and water lettuce are a problem in coastal waters. These three species of floating aquatic weeds were usually originally imported to ornament private garden pools.  They have no natural predators in Kenya and therefore proliferate in nutrient rich habitats, creating thick mats through which boats, wildlife, birds, livestock, and people cannot go.  Worse, they consume all available oxygen and thereby pressure indigenous species.  There have been successes in addressing these with biological controls, such as weevils, however, which is recommended as the most environment friendly approach for Kenya (Njuguna 1991).  

Kara PagePage 1810/23/2006

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